WOLF School Offers NGSS-Aligned Science Camp Programs

Web of Life Field (WOLF) School, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing outdoor educational experiences for K-12th grade students and their teachers, began workshop training in January 2016 in order to align their environmental education programs with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

NGSS was introduced to states in April 2013, with the overarching goal of endowing students with an internationally-standardized science education. Under guidelines from the State Board of Education as required by Education Code 60605.85, California Public Schools adopted NGSS in September 2013 for K-12th grade students and have since been implementing the standards within classroom curriculum.

WOLF School offers residential science camp at 5 campuses throughout Northern California.No requirements were established for California’s outdoor education science camps to implement NGSS, placing WOLF School at the forefront of their field in their preemptive decision to align their programs with the NGSS vision. In preparation for meeting educator’s requests for NGSS-supported science camp programs, WOLF School is participating in the January/February 2016 “NGSS Through an EE Lens 2.0” workshop series held in Monterey and Santa Cruz by the ChangeScale Organization, CREEC (California Regional Environmental Education Community) and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The workshop aims to give directors, program managers and lead instructors from environmental education organizations the tools to examine and modify program curriculum to better support the vision of NGSS. 

“Since schools began the NGSS adoption, even our most consistently returning teachers and school groups have voiced concerns as to whether science camp meets the NGSS vision,” says Heather Butler, WOLF School Director. “Without a doubt teachers value the supportive role science camp plays in their student’s education, but they also want to make sure they are adhering to the Next Generation Science Standards. Our goal is to align our existing programs with NGSS, ensuring student’s continued participation in WOLF School science camp and success back in the classroom and beyond.”

 WOLF School's Salamander Study, a field study activity offered during their outdoor science school program at Camp Monte Toyon, incorporates Next Generation Science Standards.

WOLF School's Salamander Study, a field study activity offered during their outdoor science school program at Camp Monte Toyon, incorporates Next Generation Science Standards.

Already the workshop has proven beneficial to WOLF School’s goals, inspiring ways to tailor their programs to better align with NGSS—such as adding data analysis and interpretation to programs like their 20-year-running Salamander Study—as well as validating WOLF School’s existing programs which already align with NGSS; one of the workshop’s examples for an NGSS-centric program focused on transects in order to inspire the exploration and questioning so important to the NGSS vision, a program WOLF School already provides, offering botanical and creek transect studies at their various campuses.

Putting theory into practice in preparation for the 2016 camp year, WOLF School began actualizing the NGSS alignment process during their own spring 2016 training, held January 19-22. WOLF School’s environmental educators, known as naturalists, spent the week teaching and re-visioning their programs within the NGSS framework while maintaining the WOLF School mission statement of "building respect, appreciation and stewardship within the Web of Life," as well as ensuring that the two most important factors of WOLF School camp were met: that the students not only learn science, but have fun in the outdoors in the process.